Ayrshire proved a happy hunting ground for an amateur for the second time in less than a week as Connor Syme’s success in qualfying for the Open Championship was emulated by Sandy Scott in a scramble for four Scottish Open spots, writes Martin Dempster.
The 19-year-old from Nairn joined three professionals, Gareth Wright, Jack Doherty and Paul O’Hara, in securing a place alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott in the £5.5million Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event after a tense two-round battle at Kilmarnock (Barassie).
West Linton professional Wright won the shoot-out for the second time in three years and completed a hat-trick of successes in this event, backing up his spectacular opening 64 on Saturday with a solid 71 for an 11-under-par total at the Ayrshire venue.
The Edinburgh-based Welshman finished three shots clear of Doherty, last year’s winner, with Scott a shot further back in third after he carded a best-of-the-day 67 in a second round played in miserable wet conditions almost from start to finish.
O’Hara, winner of both the Northern Open and PGA Professional Championship in recent weeks, secured the final spot in a play-off against another amateur hopeful in Craig Ross, winning that in style with an eagle-3 at the first extra hole.
For Scott, this success makes up for the disappointment of missing out on a place in the six-strong Scotland side set to defend the European Team title in Austria this week. “I was disappointed about that, of course, but to have this as a consolation is fantastic,” said the Highlander after signing off with two birdies. “I went to a couple of Scottish Opens at Castle Stuart and now it is great to know I will be playing in it.”
Wright recovered from a shaky start to his second round – he had to take a penalty drop at the first – to produce a flawless effort, following 15 straight pars with birdies at the 16th and 17th. “It is great to be in a Rolex Series event that is being headlined by Rory McIlroy,” said the winner. “I also have good memories from Dundonald, having shot a 62 there in a Tartan Tour event a few years back.”
Kilmarnock man Doherty, who had his wife, Joceelyn, caddying for him, was already on course to progress before he signed off in style with a birdie at the last. “That’s two years in a row now and it feels nice to be playing in a Scottish Open just 15 minutes from my house,” he said.
On a day when Scott Henry slipped from second overnight to joint-22nd after a 78, O’Hara rolled in a 30-footer for his eagle after tying with Kirkhill man Ross on six-under.